Offensive attack limits women’s socce in MAC

By Steve Shonder

Women’s soccer was unable to get its offense going when it was needed the most this weekend.

The Huskies (6-11-3, 4-6-2 MAC) lost a rainy home game to the Toledo Rockets (6-12-1, 3-7-1 MAC), 2-1, Friday. The loss ended the Huskies’ undefeated home record and sent NIU into the first round of the MAC tournament without much momentum.

In Sunday’s tournament game against the Miami RedHawks (11-6-3,8-1-3 MAC), the Huskies had a season-ending 3-0 loss.

The Huskies continued their first half scoreless streak against Toledo as NIU has not scored a first half goal since Oct. 4 against Akron. NIU switched up its formation early in the match using three forwards to try to increase the pressure on Toledo, but they were unable to get anything going.

NIU kept the pressure on Toledo, but Emily Nulty’s shot on goal in the fifth minute and Sara Spaulding’s header later on were the only big chances NIU had in the first-half. Head coach John Ross was disappointed by the team’s failure to convert those shots into goals.

“I wish we capitalized a little bit more early when we had quite a few chances,” Ross said. “We need to do a better job of creating a couple more opportunities in the second half.”

As the rain picked up in the second half, things weren’t much better for the Huskies. Kiersten Johnson of Toledo caught goalkeeper Riley Riordan out of position and scored the first goal of the match. Moments later, NIU’s Gwen Sabo launched a volley from beyond midfield to tie the game, 1-1.

That was NIU’s only shot in the second half. Toledo took the lead for good on a goal from Lauren Taylor off a slot pass from Rachel MacLeod.

Every active NIU player on the team made an appearance in the game, with most of the starters getting an opportunity to rest. Even goalie Amy Carr, who had played every minute this season, was swapped out for Riordan midway through the first half to get Riordan some in-game experience before the playoffs. Ashley Neubeck believed the switches would help the team going forward.

“We [have] a lot of people that haven’t really played this year some experience in playing together,” Neubeck said. “It’ll help build on going into the MAC tournament [and next season]. Everyone either got some rest or got some playing experience, which … will help us get that win.”

The Huskies turned their attention to post-season play against Miami in the first round of the MAC tournament Sunday.

NIU held the RedHawks scoreless until the 29th minute, when sophomore midfielder/forward Haley Walter scored off a long throw-in from sophomore midfielder Jess Bronke. Long throws would continue to test the Huskie back line throughout the match.

A minute later, RedHawks junior midfielder Kelsey Dinges fired a 20-yard rocket that found the back of the net.

Miami put the match away in the 50th minute: After freshman midfielder Taylor Jackson landed a corner kick directly in front of the goal, freshman forward Rachel Marble was able to put the ball on goal, giving Miami its 3-0 lead and the win.

Ross said Miami took advantage of the opportunities.

“We were very good at the beginning,” Ross said. “We came out strong and got some opportunities. [Miami] just found the ball in some dangerous areas and took advantage.”